Review: Motorola ROKR E8
Above the FastScroll arc is a 2-inch 4:3 aspect ratio screen, unusual for a phone; most have elongated portrait LCDs. This squarer shape makes an excellent video and camera viewfinder since the aspect ratio more closely matches the shape of the resulting images. However, the screen's too squat for most menus. There's room for no more than five menu items at most, requiring additional scroll downs to get to additional menu choices than you'd get on phones with a longer portrait-oriented screen. The E8's glass top must have an anti-reflective coating because the screen is almost as bright in direct sunlight as it is in room light.
We tested the E8 on New York City's T-Mobile network. It retained its signal longer and regained signal faster after going into and emerging from a tunnel than the Nokia 5310, but lagged behind in both categories when compared to an inexpensive Nokia 3555. We lost signal on the E8 while in a residential apartment building elevator where other phones barely blinked. We also experienced some blank spaces in mid-conversation, but I didn't experience any dropped calls.
With Motorola's Crystal Talk technology, conversations were, well, consistently crystal clear with plenty of volume; only the usual network warbles marred the near-landline conversation quality. The E8's speakerphone also provided plenty of clean volume. Our only complaint is the E8 was not always tolerant of cross talk, resulting in an occasional "whaddya say?" when both conversationalists speak simultaneously.
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Ringtone volume and vibrate buzz were not as loud or as violent as some phones. Given how loud the speaker delivers voice and music, we were surprised that the ringtones didn't blare like a megaphone. And there's no menu choice for "vibrate/ring" which would do both simultaneously. Instead, you get "vibrate then ring," which produces a slight delay between feel and sound. If the phone's in a bag, it'll vibrate once or twice before I even have a chance to hear it ring, increasing the odds of missing the call. I understand the quiet-then-noisy alert – it gives you a chance to answer or silence the phone before it disturbs everyone around you – but I'd like a simultaneous vibrate/ring choice as well.
Oddly, sound quality at both ends of calls was better through the phone than through the included earphones. The only advantage to using the earphones was to block out ambient noise while chatting. A higher class of phone earphones made a huge difference.
In our informal battery tests, the E8 pulled between 5:30 and 5:35 hours of continual talk time, a little less than the rated 6 hours, and 11:30-to-12-hours of music play on a single charge with the cell radio on, another half-hour to an hour in airplane mode. You get several "low battery" buzz alerts before the phone shuts down permanently. Keeping the phone in the "locked" position turns off the display and adds substantially to the battery life. The airplane mode setting is inconveniently buried in the Phone Settings menu, but you can assign a navigation array toggle position for it if you are a frequent flyer.